The Banff Gondola is one of the top things to do in Banff during the summer. Unparalleled mountain views, combined with fun activities the whole family can enjoy, make this gondola ride one of the best in Banff National Park.
In this post, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about the Banff Gondola Experience. Is it worth it? How much does it cost? When should you go? I answer all your questions and more down below.
The Ultimate Guide: Banff Gondola
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Gondolas in Banff — Which is Better?
There are actually a few gondolas that run during summer in Banff, not just the “Banff Gondola” — a bit confusing, right? Which one you visit is up to you and your budget, but they each will provide panoramic, incredible views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
Banff Gondola — The one this post is about! The Banff Gondola takes you up to the top of Sulphur Mountain. It’s located near the Banff Upper Hot Springs as well, so many people do both activities in one go.
Mount Norquay Chairlift — Mt Norquay is a ski resort. In the summer, you can ride in their 10-minute open-air chairlift up into the sky. At the top, you can hike, dine, or attempt to cross the Via Ferrata! Their ski resort is 100% green-energy powered.
Banff Sunshine Summer Gondola — Banff’s longest and biggest gondola, accommodating up to eight family members. The ride will take you up to Sunshine Village Ski Resort.
Lake Louise Summer Gondola — The fourth and final gondola in Banff National Park is located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, about 45 minutes away from Banff townsite. In the summer, you can get unparalleled views of Lake Louise from the sky while optimizing your chances to observe grizzly bears in the wild.
The Banff Gondola — Is It Worth the Ticket Cost?
A ride up the famous Banff Gondola in the summer will cost you between $50–$60 CAD. The rates are dynamic, meaning they can vary depending on whether it’s a weekday, weekend, availability, etc.
You’ll need to reserve your ticket in advance to ensure you have your desired loading (departure) time. If you arrive and get tickets at the window, you may be queuing for a while.
If you have the budget to do only one gondola in Banff National Park, I would recommend either the Banff Gondola or the Mt Norquay Chairlift.
🎟 Before 10am, kids get free admission when accompanied by at least one paying adult!
How to Get to the Banff Gondola From Town
The convenience of the Banff Gondola is that it lies just five minutes from downtown Banff.
The easiest and most sustainable way to get there is to take the Roam Transit shuttle (Route 1). Since there’s limited parking at the top, it’s safer to just leave your car at the free parking lot by the Banff Train Station and take the Roam shuttles to get around (for cheap!).
You can also drive, but you run the risk of not finding parking (since both the Gondola and the Upper Hot Springs are popular attractions).
Want another way to get to the Banff Gondola? 🥾
You can skip the Gondola ride but still reach the top of Sulphur Mountain with a moderate, 10km, 2.5+ hour hike up a series of switchbacks. The gondola trolleys actually ride right over the trail to get up the mountain. It’s not the most scenic hiking trail in Banff, so if you only have time to get in one hike during your trip, I’d choose something like the Big Beehive hike in Lake Louise.
How Long Does it Take to Ride the Banff Gondola?
The Banff Gondola ride lasts about 7-8 minutes from bottom to top and vice versa. The views of Banff, Tunnel Mountain, the Bow River, and the peaks around the town on the way up are phenomenal, with windows looking out to your left (if your back is facing the mountain slope).
You should be in line at least 10-15 minutes before your “loading” time indicated on your ticket. If you get to the station in advance, there’s a gift shop and a modern Starbucks inside to keep you busy (and satiated!)
Can you hike up Sulphur Mountain and take the Banff Gondola down? Yes, but you must reserve your ticket/departure time in advance. You can’t just show up at the top and purchase a one-way ticket; they will not allow it.
What to See & Do at the Top of the Banff Gondola
Watch the “Spirit of Banff” Short Film
One of the highlights of the Banff Gondola Experience, in my opinion, is the short film, The Spirit of Banff, which plays every couple of minutes inside the small and cozy multi-sensory theater.
The quick 2-minute film will take you on an emotional journey as you watch Banff transform over the years in front of your eyes. It’s a very sweet story, with a very powerful message:
We must do everything we can to protect this special, fragile, and wild place for generations to come.
Don’t miss it!
Enjoy the interpretive Center
The Interpretive Center is a fun little attraction inside the modern Summit Station. There are plaques to read, fun facts, and immersive, self-guided activities to do with your family.
Everyone wants to hurry out onto the 360-degree view platform outside but in doing so they miss out on the opportunity to learn about Banff a little deeper.
Hike the Boardwalk to the Cosmic Ray Station on Sanson’s Peak
The boardwalk hike is a must-do when atop the Banff Gondola. It’s an easy, 30-minute hike on an elevated boardwalk that will take you to the Cosmic Ray Station atop Sanson’s Peak.
Along the way, enjoy immaculate views of the Rocky Mountains!
Tip: Go for sunset and enjoy that golden glow as it shines through those snow-capped peaks! ☀️
Enjoy Beer & Live Music on the Outdoor Patio
The Peak Patio is an outdoor patio offering fresh air paired with mountain views and a refreshing beer. While they do serve food, it is more light bites and snacks. I’d go for the live music and brews, then maybe head inside for dinner.
Have Dinner with a Million Dollar View
The Sky Bistro inside the Summit Station is one of the best places to enjoy dinner with a million-dollar mountain view in Banff National Park. Their menu features unique Canadian dishes made with regionally-sourced vegetables, meats, and ingredients. If Sky Bistro is full, you can also enjoy a marketplace, buffet-style meal inside at their Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen.
Ready to ride? 🚠
Click here to purchase your Banff Gondola tickets